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Ultra-gore -- how much is too much?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Neurosis, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. Neurosis

    Neurosis Minstrel

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    I've been experimenting with a less ethereal writing style recently and am finding it fun. However I have trouble gauging how much is too much. How much violence and gore is too much? Obviously my intention is to push the envelope as far as I possibly can, however I have a slightly warped base-line of comparison. You see, during my time in university I have done many dissections, and what you might consider extremely gore-y/disgusting things. I am pretty desensitized to blood and guts.

    So whats the limit on what you think is acceptable, considering I am trying to stray as close to the line of unpublishable as possible (not that I ever think I will get published). Of course I don't plan to have pointless blood and entrails with little context. I am trying to explore the concept Nitzsche explained so succinctly when he said:
    "when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you"

    As a related but tangential issue. Is it too creepy to have detailed taxidermy descriptions? I have a sketch for a character who is WAY too into taxidermy which I thought would be an interesting diversion.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2012
  2. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

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    My only rule would be to do what you want, unless it's just for the sake of it. It's all well and good trying to explore a concept, but is it at the cost of writing a good story?
     
  3. Merc

    Merc Dreamer

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    I see the varying levels of violence to be more of an eye-opener to the reader. One more reason that I love Joe Abercrombie, in his first law series, he would be violent without excessive gore in characters that had a more likable demeanor, or that where more humbled to their actions. Where as characters that where less so, the scenes becoming brutally disgusting, and when read through the characters mind, it gives a bigger understanding to the concept of how the character is, and what the action indicates of the character and to the story.
    Then you've got stuff like, "The Dead Shall Inherit The Earth" which is extreme gore, but accepted pretty openly.
    As long as the gore/violence is offering a connection to something going on within the story, I don't see it as a filter to really be concerned with. People accept, and judge in more or less the same manner.
    ... Hope it helps.
     
  4. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

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    Well, in movies this kind of thing is popular enough, think of the success of the Saw-movies for example.
    I'm not a huge fan of overdoing this kind of stuff, but opinions on what couts as overdoing" are pretty variable.
    As long as your not straying too far into the sexual, this shouldn't be that much of a problem. Sex is much worse than violence. ;)
     
  5. Merc

    Merc Dreamer

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    Amanita, sex is much better than violence. :p ... Sorry I had to, totally meant as a joke though. I uber agree on the movie mention though, what's accepted in written media has been expanded considerably due to the influence of movies. In my opinion.
     
  6. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Maester

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    I think go for as much as you like. I have had a few comment that my levels of gore were too high and I didn't have to do much to get that. Some just have a higher tolerance than others.

    I would only say make sure it is serving a purpose in the story.

    Sent from my Blade using Forum Runner
     
  7. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    It's too much when the reader sees it as gratuitous, disbelief is no longer suspended, and the reader is left wondering "who is the author going to rip apart next?"
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I don't think there are any real limits these days. It is true that within the context of your story you have to maintain a certain level of plausibility with respect to the reader. That's true of any situation. But as for an outright limit on violence, I don't think so. I've come across books on the shelf at Barnes and Noble with levels of violence, including sexual violence, that were extreme and continuous throughout much of the story.
     
  9. Graham Irwin

    Graham Irwin Sage

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    Who doesn't care for a bit of the old ultra-violence?

    Gore is alright, but his theories on Global Warming are questionable, to say the least.

    Not one word of serious in this post.
     
  10. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    In one book,
    I have a young female MC that witnesses a group of warriors cutting down the men as they rush out of a burning building, the next morning she is captured and plants her small dagger into the femoral artery. I mention warm fluid covering her hand as she runs from the other men, but I let the reader provide the gore.

    no body parts flying off, no squirting.
     
  11. "Too much" is, I think, entirely defined by the audience. If you're writing grisly horror, there's probably no such thing as too much. If you're writing mainstream European fantasy, then you can be as relatively bloodless as Eragon or as gruesome as A Game of Thrones.
     
  12. Neurosis

    Neurosis Minstrel

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    Game of Thrones is gruesome? I thought it was pretty tame, except for the constant incest.
     
  13. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I wouldn't consider anything written in mainstream fantasy gruesome. Gory a bit, but not anything that makes me flinch. I write somewhat graphic fiction myself sometimes (although not always) and usually I use it for a comic effect. Shows like Superjail! or Metalacolpyse use gore as a comedic thing. For instance a band like Cannibal Corpse uses graphic imagery for its album covers, but it's so over-the-top gross that it can't really be taken seriously as being offensive. I try to walk that line with some of my fiction, because I think for the purposes of fantasy you can have over-the-top violence and gore, if it's sort of intended to be used for sort of black comedy. ("He carried the severed unicorn head in a sack and beat people with it if they got too close.").

    It's a very specific audience, but the audience does exist. Sword and sorcery seems to welcome the more "serious" ultra-violence more, with Conan splattering blood everywhere he goes. If it's to the point where the violence is sadistic (like Saw) then it may turn off fantasy readers. However, it may attract people who like fantasy but prefer it to be darker and grimmer.

    Anyway, for me personally, I usually try to use over-the-top violence as one would use it in a cartoon. I don't really like writing realistic fantasy so much (which seems to be the trend nowadays.) Both can work, it's just very delicate.

    This coming from someone who has written stories called "Sloshing Blood on the Floor and Mopping it Up with the Heads of the Innocent," "Drink the Wyvern," "Wall of Dead Unicorns" and "Kingdom of Buzzards." So take that for what it's worth.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2012
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I've always thought that you have to write pretty well to jump from gruesome comedy into gruesome drama. I feel like some writers are unintentionally funny.

    In my opinion, if there's no tension, no danger, no excitement and no relevance - well, it might as well be on looney toons.
     
  15. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

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    I am going to assume you are writting for an adult/mature audience. So I say whatever level you define would be alright. I personally like lots of violence and gore but don't over do it. I can't really think of an example but I wouldn't want the violence to be the main attraction to your story. Like in my novel I have going on, I'm planning on making it very violent and bloody, but I don't want the fact that it is violent to be the main reason why people read my story. I want them to read it for the plot and the storyline and the characers, not to see how creative you can be when it comes to graphic writting. I also don't like reading about sadistic violence. like, I'm fine when it comes to reading about a graphic war battle but when it comes to something as pointless as where it resembles the movie "Saw" then I agree with P.T.D, then it gets lame

    The most violent books I have read have been the Warhammer 40K books (you will all soon realize that those are the only books I really read lol) It talks about how daemons claw their way out of your brain, how horrible and agonizing mutations warp your flesh and soul. It talks about how damned and immortal warriors have become possesed by daemons and their bodies are rotting corpses spilling their entrails throughout battle. How people have bound wicked spirits into machines and binding their own soul to it, becoming part man, machine, and beast. Entire planets are butchered for the glory of a God of Death and Murder. The books are a really good read because the combat is very fun to read and the level of gore and disgust makes you want more.

    I'm not usually a fan of Khorne but for this thread I say, BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!

    @Phill the Drill
    I can't take CC seriously either. Gallery of Suicide and Tomb of the Mutilated are their best albums
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2012
  16. I said "as gruesome," indicating that within mainstream fantasy there's a continuum that doesn't really get much worse than what's in Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones is definitely more gruesome than Eragon, which has very little gore.
     
  17. Neurosis

    Neurosis Minstrel

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    True, true. But what about Richard Morgan? He has gang rape scenes followed by evisceration.
     
  18. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    What's wrong with Looney Tunes?

    Not everything has to be high art. I think some fantasy has this high seriousness to it that can make it dry or boring to the average reader. I'm not say that someone should just write senseless blood splatter without any pay-off or storytelling, but I think emulating cartoons isn't the worst thing someone could do. Looney Tunes have story arcs and character development just like anything else.

    Maybe Looney Tunes are low brow in some instances, but they were originally designed for adults. They were ultra-violent a long time ago, and rather successful at it.

    Anyway, I do think you have to be quite skilled to pull off gruesome comedy without making it just stupid. But I'm a big fan of anyone that tries to stretch the boundaries of what is considered good taste in the interest of being funny or telling a story.
     
  19. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I've been reading Richard Morgan and from what I can gather, he likes to be rather graphic. I don't think that's the main selling point of his work though. It's there for sure, but he can get away with having really graphic scenes because he's also a good storyteller and can paint a vivid picture of his world. Tim Lebbon (primarily a horror writer) has used this style in his fantasy books. I admire writers who over-step these boundaries. There's an audience for this kind of writing for sure, but it does need to have substance.

    @Androxine: I really want to read more Warhammer novels. They seem to be the exact sort of thing I like (which I refer to as "larger than life" fantasy. Fantasy/SF that just knocks down the door and kicks your teeth in.) I bought one book that was an anthology of stories and I rather enjoyed that. I was going to buy "Let the Galaxy Burn" but I'm not really into sci-fi. Maybe I'll check it out.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2012
  20. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Nothing, if that's what you're going for. I don't think that's what Neurosis is going for so I was talking about the risks of being unintentionally funny.
     
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